Music Photography

The House of Love at Paramount

For the duration of World Pride, Paramount House Hotel with the support of HQ Sydney plays host to the wild and vibrant art of Mark Murphy’s The House of Love documentary, captured by photographer Peter Elfes. The film tells the story of Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and its iconic dance parties in the 80s and 90s. These celebrations were decadent, enthusiastic, and extraordinary – coinciding with a new era of House music and the growing gay rights movement. We had the pleasure of speaking to both Mark and Peter ahead of the film’s release.


PHH: What inspired the creation of The House of Love?

MM: I needed to tell the story of the Hordern Pavilion’s groundbreaking dance parties – we never knew at the time, but they meant a lot to everyone who went to them. In the documentary, the interviewees began talking about people we lost through the devastation of AIDS in the 80s and how the community rose up and became stronger in the face of such a crisis. These parties were a shining light in those dark times, and the rest of the world was taking notice.



Flyer from The House Of Love film

PHH: How did you get involved with the parties at Hordern, Peter?

PE: I grew up in Darlinghurst across the road from the Albury Hotel where my father had a photography studio. I worked with him and studied photography at TAFE so had an early introduction to the art form during its film era. At the time, many of my neighbours were young, artistic and involved in Dance Party culture. I went to my first Mardi Gras in 1990, equipped with the world’s most technologically advanced camera system (at the time). I’d never been to a party like that before and was totally blown away by its scale and hi-tech lighting.


PHH: What was it like shooting the Hordern parties?

PE: Carting heavy and expensive camera equipment around all night in an intense environment is hard work. Super loud music, a seething crowd… It energises you. It’s easy to want to get involved in the celebrations but you need to stay focused and sober, especially when you’re clambering up scaffold towers or into gantries. I had to rely on my technical knowledge, factoring in powerful laser lights and long exposures (over 30 seconds), to get the shot. It was all worth it – capturing a beautiful and unique dance party culture that was changing the world. 


PHH: Mark, do you have any special memories from your party days?

MM: There are so many. Inner-city performing. Gay porn star Jeff Stryker headlining one party. Hacienda DJ from the UK Graeme Park being gobsmacked by the size of the parties. The most talked about moment would be Grace Jones’ NYE Performance in ‘88 where she was two hours late and had her designer leather jacket stolen. That party in particular kicked off the golden era in ‘89 where there were more than 45 parties throughout the year, with thousands going every weekend. At the time, we referred to it simply as Club Hordern. 


PHH: What makes The House of Love so special?

MM: Everything was new back then. Dance parties. House music. All those things seemed to come together in the same place at the exact same time and it was something the community needed and embraced. It was our Summer of Love. Our Punk Rock. 


PHH: Do you have a favourite song from the era?

MM: Joe Smooth’s ‘Promised Land’, because it encapsulated the feeling and the time so perfectly.


The House of Love documentary is coming soon. Peter Elfes’ work can be found online, with his most recent photography of Lake Eyre being published in books and magazines around the world. Paramount’s The House of Love is on show all World Pride 2023 long, from 20th February to 5th March.

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